Did We Really Save the Ozone Layer?

Ozone hole size and worldwide use of ozone depleting substances (click for credit)
Ozone hole size and worldwide use of ozone depleting substances (click for credit)

A reader sent me this article and asked for my thoughts on it. It discusses the fact that the ozone “hole” over Antarctica grew 22% from 2014 to 2015. It presents the graph shown above, which demonstrates that despite the fact that the worldwide use of chemicals known to destroy ozone has dropped to nearly zero, the size of the ozone hole has not really decreased. It points out two studies that claim the ozone hole will shrink in size by either 2020 or 2040, and it concludes with this sentence:

But the longer the hole persists, the greater the likelihood that the ozone layer is dominated by natural factors, not human CFC emissions.

So what’s the story? By banning the use of CFCs, which we know can destroy ozone in the ozone layer, did we really fix the ozone “hole” problem? Or did we, as this story seems to imply, try to fix something that is probably the result of earth’s natural variability?

The first thing you need to know is that the ozone “hole” isn’t really a hole. It is a reduction in the amount of ozone that exists within the ozone layer, a portion of earth’s atmosphere that is roughly 15-35 kilometers above the surface of the earth. While all portions of the atmosphere have some ozone in them, this portion has the highest levels. Ozone’s molecular structure allows it to absorb some of the ultraviolet light that comes from the sun. That’s good for us, because ultraviolet light is energetic enough to kill living tissue. You can therefore think of the ozone layer as a “shield” that protects us from most of the sun’s ultraviolet light.

The amount of ozone in the ozone layer is measured using Dobson Units (DU). The larger the number of Dobson Units, the more ozone there is in the ozone layer. Globally, the average amount of ozone in the ozone layer is about 300 DU, but in Antarctica, that number fluctuates significantly with the seasons. While there are times the amount of ozone in the ozone layer above Antarctica is 300 DU and higher, there are also times it is significantly lower. The lowest recorded level of ozone in the ozone layer above Antarctica was in September of 1994, when there were only 74 DU of ozone. That reduction of ozone is what scientists refer to as the ozone “hole.”

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I’m Back!

You might have noticed a deafening silence coming from this obscure stop on the Information Superhighway. It has been more than a month since my previous blog post, which is nearly unheard of for me. I might go a week to two without blogging, but rarely a month! In fact, one of my readers was concerned enough to text me and ask if everything was okay. Yes, everything is fine. I was really, really busy last month finishing up my new book Discovering Design with Chemistry. Things are still on track for it to be released on August 17th, so that’s good. After I got done submitting the final pages of my book to the publisher, my wife and I then left the country for two weeks to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, which was actually last year. We had a wonderful time and just got back into the country.

With all that said, I thought I would break the silence with something a bit different – a question to my readers. Since many of you are interested in science, I wonder if you remember back in March of 2014 when it was announced that evidence for inflation, a a necessary fudge factor in the Big Bang Model, had been discovered. Researchers on the BICEP2 experiment supposedly found a polarization pattern in the cosmic microwave background that should have happened as a result of the inflationary process. It was greeted with great media fanfare. For example, Scientific American (which should be more scientific) had an article entitled, “Gravitational Waves from Big Bang Detected.” In it, the author said:

Physicists have found a long-predicted twist in light from the big bang that represents the first image of ripples in the universe called gravitational waves, researchers announced today. The finding is direct proof of the theory of inflation, the idea that the universe expanded extremely quickly in the first fraction of a nanosecond after it was born.

So, according to Scientific American, the BICEP2 experiment proved inflation! Space.com said the data were the “Smoking Gun” of inflation, and the New York Times agreed.

Of course, there were other news outlets that were more responsible, including the fact that the results were tentative and not yet peer reviewed. Nevertheless, the overall coverage made it seem like the research team had confirmed that cosmic inflation really occurred.

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The 2015 Homeschool Iowa Conference

A portion of the crowd at the 2015 Homeschool Iowa Conference.
A portion of the crowd at the 2015 Homeschool Iowa Conference.

I spent this past weekend speaking at the Homeschool Iowa Conference. I had never been to this particular homeschool conference before, and I am so glad I got to go this year. The attendance was excellent, the conference ran smoothly, and the organizers treated the speakers incredibly well. My publisher’s booth was right across from Heidi St. John’s booth, and for the first time in quite a while, I got to spend some time talking with her and her husband, who has the world’s best first name (Jay). They are both wonderful servants of God, and spending time with them is a real blessing.

I gave six talks at the conference: Homeschooling: The Solution to our Education Problem, ‘Teaching’ Science at Home, Building a Biblical Worldview, Ecohysteria, Creation Versus Evolution, and What I Learned by Homeschooling. They were very well attended, and I got some excellent questions afterwards. I also spent a lot of time taking with individuals, including several very impressive homeschooled students.

One particularly impressive student was a junior in high school. After one of my talks, she asked me to sign a couple of her books. I noticed that one of them was my advanced chemistry course, which is essentially AP-level chemistry. I told her that I was impressed she was taking advanced chemistry, and she told me that she had already taken my biology, chemistry, and physics courses as well as a Human Anatomy and Physiology course. Once she finished advanced chemistry, she planned to take advanced physics. This means that by the time she graduates, she will have covered the equivalent of three AP-level science courses in high school! I told her how impressive that is, since many high school students don’t even take one AP-level science course. She was quite humble, however, brushing aside my praise and simply telling me that she really enjoys studying science.

Another student and his family spoke to me about their experience with the third edition of Exploring Creation with Chemistry. As you might know, I don’t recommend that edition to anyone because of its many scientific errors and its habit of requiring students to know things they have not yet been taught. The student told me that he had started with the third edition of the the course, not knowing that I wasn’t the author. As he tried to cover the material, he got more and more confused. Eventually, he realized that my name wasn’t on the book, so he got online and found a used second edition of the course (which was authored by me). When he used that edition, he understood and enjoyed the material. I told him I was very sorry that he had to do that and, unfortunately, there are probably many students who have found themselves in a similar position.

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The 2015 Michigan Home Education Conference And The Success of Homeschooled Students

This is the Lansing Center, where the conference was held.
This is the Lansing Center, where the conference was held.

This past weekend, I spoke at the Michigan Home Education Conference. It might have been the very first time I have spoken at this convention, even though it has been going on for quite a while. It was held in the beautiful Lansing Center (pictured above), and the weather was quite nice, so I got an opportunity to enjoy the conference center’s riverfront setting. When I wasn’t outside enjoying the view or talking with people at my publisher‘s booth, I was giving talks. I gave a total of six talks at the convention: Homeschooling: The Solution to our Education Problem, ‘Teaching’ High School at Home, Teaching Science at Home, Be Open-Minded, but Don’t Let Your Brain Fall Out, How to be a REAL Environmentalist, and Why Homeschool Through High School.

The conference was well attended and ran quite smoothly. One interesting thing this conference does is offer a free session on Thursday night. It is designed for those who are thinking about homeschooling their children, but in the end, anyone is welcome. The first speaker of that session was Carol Barnier, and she was a delight to hear. She spoke about the basics of homeschooling, and she had one of the best phrases I have heard regarding the homeschool model:

Homeschooling is incredibly efficient and forgiving.

It is efficient because the education is tailor-made for the child. As a result, the child can learn a lot more in a set amount of time than one who must sit in a classroom that attempts to meet the needs of all the students there. It is forgiving because it is so efficient. It might take you several years to find the ideal educational approach for each of your children. However, once you find what works, each child learns so efficiently that it doesn’t matter if you wasted a few years. In the end, the child will “catch up” and eventually surpass what he or she would have accomplished in a classroom setting.

I wholeheartedly agree with Carol. Homeschooling is incredibly efficient and forgiving, which is why homeschooled students are so outstanding, especially those who were homeschooled K-12.

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The Ontario Christian Home Educators’ Convention

The convention was held on the lovely campus of Redeemer University College in Ontario, Canada. (click for credit)
The convention was held on the lovely campus of Redeemer University College in Ontario, Canada. (click for credit)

On Friday and Saturday last week, I spoke at the Ontario Christian Home Educators’ Convention in Ontario, Canada. It has been 10 years or more since I last spoke there, so it was nice to be back. The convention was held on the campus of Redeemer University College in Ontario, where the admissions director is a home educator. Like many universities, Redeemer has learned that homeschool graduates make above-average university students (see here, here, here, here, and here), so they actively encourage homeschool graduates to apply. They are also happy to support homeschooling in Canada.

The convention was very well attended, and based on a show of hands at my keynote session, about 20% of the attendees had never been to a homeschool convention before. As I spoke with individual attendees, it became clear that several of the people at the convention were considering home education for the first time. When I mentioned this to one of the conference organizers, he indicated that the new premier of Ontario is introducing a radical sex education program, and it is causing many in Ontario to look for a way out of the government school system. Based on what I read about the new program, I truly hope lots of parents remove their children from such a horrible situation!

I gave a total of six talks at the convention: Homeschooling: The Solution to our Education Problem, Be Open-Minded, but Don’t Let Your Brain Fall Out, What About K-6 Science?, Why Homeschool Through High School, ‘Teaching’ High School at Home , and How are Homeschool Graduates Doing? When I give talks in a different country, I always try to make them relevant for that country, so most of the statistics I shared came from Canadian education studies, and most of the experts I quoted in my talks were Canadian. The conference organizers really appreciated that. I guess some U.S. speakers come to Canada and just assume that all of their U.S.-based talks are relevant to Canadians, and some of them just aren’t.

One thing I have to note is that this convention really knew how to make an out-of-the-country speaker feel right at home. They arranged for me to have a home-cooked dinner the night that I arrived, and it was great! The couple who hosted me had three charming children, two of whom colored pictures for me. Those pictures are now on my bulletin board in my office. Then, each morning, another couple cooked breakfast for me. The other meals were catered by Redeemer University College. Everyone made sure I had everything I needed to be as comfortable as possible. I don’t get pampered like that very often, and it was really nice!

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The 2015 Midwest Homeschool Convention

An overhead view of half the vendor hall at the 2015 Midwest Homeschool Convention
An overhead view of half the vendor hall at the 2015 Midwest Homeschool Convention

This past weekend, I spoke at the 2015 Midwest Homeschool Convention. I gave a total of six talks. Four of them were solo talks: Creation versus Evolution: Religion versus Science or Religion versus Religion?, What I Learned by Homechooling, Reasonable Faith: The Scientific Case for Christianity, and College and Faith: What’s The Real Story? I also gave two talks with Diana Waring: Homeschooling: Things We Wish We Had Known and Dealing with Pressure: The Benefits of Slowing Down. The conference was very well attended and ran quite smoothly.

I did learn one sad thing, however. Diana Waring announced that she is retiring from the homeschooling conference circuit. She will still be writing, but she will not be speaking at homeschool conventions on a regular basis anymore. The homeschooling community will be missing out on some real blessings as a result. If homeschoolers want to continue to benefit from her wisdom, they should follow her blog.

I didn’t have the chance to speak to as many people as I usually do at such conventions, because I am currently performing in a musical called The Fantasticks. As a result, I had to drive a bit more than two hours from Anderson, Indiana to Cincinnati, Ohio every morning to speak at the convention, and then I had to leave the convention early so I could drive back to Anderson, Indiana to perform in the play. Normally, I wouldn’t consider doing such a crazy thing, but this is my all-time favorite play. I have performed the roles of El Gallo (my all-time favorite role) and Henry (a washed-up actor), and in this version of the play, I got a chance to perform a different role, Amos Babcock Bellomy (a nerdy father). The role was played by Joel Grey in the movie, and I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Here is a picture of me during one of the performances (I am the one in the bow tie):

fantasticks

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A Few Questions and Answers

questions

About two weeks ago, I spoke at the Greater St.Louis Area Home Educators Expo. It was an excellent convention. One of the sessions I did was entitled “Q & A With Dr. Wile.” It was a forum where students and parents could ask me questions about pretty much anything. Well, the convention wanted to make sure they had plenty of questions in case there weren’t many from the audience, so they solicited questions on their Facebook page and in one of their popular homeschool co-ops. Since there were plenty of questions from the audience, I didn’t get a chance to answer many of the ones that came in before the convention, so I wanted to answer a few of them now. Here they are, in no particular order:

What is your favorite play or part you have done?

My favorite play is The Fantasticks by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. It’s a wonderful “boy meets girl” story with a couple of really good twists. It is the world’s longest-running musical, with the original production running off-Broadway for a total of 42 years. I have had the honor of playing two parts in the show: El Gallo (the narrator) and Henry (an old actor). El Gallo is also my favorite part.

I am actually currently in rehearsals for another production of The Fantasticks! This time, I play one of the nerdy fathers, which is a perfect fit for me. Here is a picture of me, my (fictional) daughter, the other father, and his (fictional) son at one of the rehearsals. We aren’t in costume, but I am wearing the hat I will wear in performances:

fatasticks

Do you perform Drama in a ministry setting, or just community theater?

I do both. In fact, I have a section here on my blog that contains original scripts I have written for my church’s drama ministry.

What is your favorite song to play on piano?

Back when I had time to really play the piano, it was the first movement of Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathétique.” However, that’s beyond my ability at this point in my life. My favorite piece now is an arrangement of “Amazing Grace” by Cindy Berry. It starts off as Edvard Grieg’s “Morning Mood,” moves into “Amazing Grace,” and then moves back into “Morning Mood.” It is stunningly beautiful, and I love it because “Amazing Grace” is my favorite hymn. I actually wrote a play about it a few years ago.

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The 2015 Indiana Association of Home Educators Convention

Governor Mike Pence was greeted by Indiana Homeschoolers with a standing ovation.
Governor Mike Pence was greeted by Indiana Homeschoolers with a standing ovation.

It has been several years since I last spoke at my state’s homeschool convention. I got to end that “dry streak” this past weekend. The convention was very well attended, and it ran incredibly smoothly. I gave a total of six talks at the convention, and two of them were with Diana Waring. Diana and I spoke about Homeschooling: The Environment for Genius and Textbook Myths and How to Deal with Them. The four “solo” talks I gave were: ‘Teaching’ Jr. High and High School Science at Home, Teaching Critical Thinking, How are Homeschool Graduates Doing?, and Vaccines: The REAL Story. As I understand it, audio recordings of all these talks will eventually be available through Resounding Voice.

The vaccine talk is rather controversial in some homeschooling circles. I take a scientific approach to the issue, of course, which means I recognize that for the vast majority of people, vaccines are both very safe and very effective. As a result, I encourage people to vaccinate their children. In the homeschooling community, there is a small-but-strong anti-vaccination movement, however, so I was surprised that the convention asked me to give the talk. They did get some angry e-mails about it, but in the end, it went well, and even though I specifically asked for hostile questions, there were none. All the questions I got were very serious and very polite.

I had two big surprises at the convention. First, a former Ball State University student was at the convention, and she came up to reintroduce herself to me. It has been more than 20 years since I taught chemistry and physics at Ball State University. Also, she took chemistry 100, which is one of those “intimate” classes that contains more than 200 students, so not surprisingly, I didn’t recognize her. We talked a bit about old times, and we took a “selfie” together:

me_bs_stud1

It was really fun to have her mixed in with all the homeschooling students who have used my courses over the years.

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The 2015 Greater St.Louis Area Home Educators Expo

This is me speaking at my favorite session so far this year.
This is me speaking at my favorite session so far this year.

I spoke at another homeschooling convention this past weekend, and I have to say, it was my favorite one in quite a while! There were a lot of factors that went into making it so special. It was the first convention this year where I got to speak alongside Diana Waring, who is an incredible gift to the homeschooling community. Her wisdom and candor is a blessing, and it’s just plain fun when we do talks together. This time, we did one of our classics, Homeschooling: The Environment for Genius, and a new one, Homeschooling: Things We Wish We’d Known. In addition, I gave talks on Homeschooling: The Solution to our Education Problem, ‘Teaching’ Jr. High and High School Science at Home, Teaching Elementary Science Using History as a Guide, and The Creatures and Biological Structures Evolutionists Don’t Talk About.

However, my favorite session of the year so far wasn’t a talk at all. It was a question/answer session. I will discuss that in a moment, but first, I guess I need to “toot my own horn” for a moment. For whatever reason, I got a lot more feedback than usual from homeschooling parents and students at this convention, and some of it was amazing. It all started with the speaker coordinator for the convention. She said that at a convention about 10 years ago, her son (who was in high school at the time) asked me a question. He wanted to be a medical doctor, but he also loved ballet. Well, he had a choice between participating in an exclusive ballet event or doing a science camp. He asked what he should do. I guess I surprised him with my answer, because I told him that he should definitely participate in the ballet event.

Why would I tell an aspiring doctor to do a ballet event rather than a science camp? There are at least three reasons. First, as I understood it, it was an honor to be asked to participate in the ballet event, while the science camp was something anyone could do. Second, I encourage students to be as well-rounded as possible, and if he really enjoyed ballet, he should make the time for it, despite the fact that it wasn’t directly related to his career. Third, and most important, getting into medical school is incredibly difficult. There are lots and lots of applicants who have done all sorts of science camps. However, there aren’t lots and lots who are accomplished ballet artists. If he continued with ballet and did things like the event he described to me, it would make him stand out as an applicant.

The mother told me that her son happily took my advice. He participated in the ballet event and continued to pursue ballet in college, even though he was a premed major. Not only did he get accepted into medical school on his first attempt (an accomplishment in and of itself), he was awarded a sizable scholarship! She and her son are convinced that those accomplishments were a direct result of taking my advice. I immediately told her that her son’s talent and hard work were the primary reasons for his accomplishments, but I am happy my advice was helpful to him. For any of my readers who are thinking of becoming medical doctors, it’s worth considering this young man’s path to medical school.

I will limit myself to two other examples of the feedback I received. The second came from a homeschooling mother who told me that her daughter had taken my high-school biology course, Exploring Creation with Biology. She then enrolled in a college biology class while she was still in high school. She ended up getting the highest grade in the class, despite the fact that she was the youngest student there. After that, the department hired her to tutor her fellow students in biology! I have heard some version of this story many times, and it just further confirms how utterly wrong Bill Nye is when he says that children who are taught creationism “…will never feel the joy of discovery that science brings.”

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The Texas Homeschool Convention

My publisher's booth at the Texas Homeschool Convention.
My publisher’s booth at the Texas Homeschool Convention.

Last weekend, I spoke at the Texas Homeschool Convention. I already wrote about meeting Holocaust survivor Inge Auerbacher and hearing her talk at the convention, but now I want to discuss some other things that happened there.

It was a bit early for a homeschool convention (most of them run from mid March to late June), and it was the first time this convention had ever been held. As a result, I had no idea what to expect. I was incredibly surprised by the large attendance, and like the other Great Homeschool Conventions, this one ran quite smoothly. Overall, I was very pleased. I gave a total of five talks: Creation versus Evolution: Religion versus Science or Religion versus Religion?, The Creatures and Biological Structures Evolutionists Don’t Talk About, What I Learned by Homeschooling, College and Faith: What’s The Real Story?, and Reasonable Faith: The Scientific Case for Christianity. I had lots of good questions after the talks, one of which I will discuss below. However, before I discuss that question, I want to report about a few encounters I had at the convention that were particularly meaningful.

The first happened when I was at my publisher’s booth (pictured above). I typically hang out there between talks so I can answer questions about my courses and talk informally with the convention’s attendees. Early in the convention, a mother came by the booth and told me about her son. In early high school, he planned to go to college and get a degree in law or political science so that he could get involved in politics. However, he took my chemistry course in 10th grade, and soon after that, he changed his mind. He is now a chemistry major at university, and he plans to continue on to get his PhD! He credits my chemistry course for sparking his love of chemistry and helping him do so well at university.

Now, of course, I love stories like this. However, that was just the beginning. Later on, a high school student came to talk with me. He said that he was planning on studying Russian at university, but after taking my chemistry course, he has decided to major in chemistry! I thought it was pretty amazing to hear two such “conversion” stories at one convention, but then I heard yet another. A high school student came to me and told me that she really didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life, but after studying two of my courses, she has decided to major in some scientific field when she goes to university!

This isn’t the first time I have heard “conversion” stories like these, but hearing them at this convention was particularly meaningful, because I had recently finished Bill Nye’s awful book, Undeniable. In that book, he claims that students who are taught creationism will “never feel the joy of discovery that science brings.” In my review of the book, I said that this is demonstrably false, as I know several students who have said that using my creationist science courses caused them to study science at university. Some of them have graduated and are now doing scientific research. However, Nye’s ignorant statement was still fresh in my mind at the convention, and these three different personal encounters at the convention confirmed how incredibly wrong it is.

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